Although the awards will keep rolling in, and although this was not unexpected, it’s still something to celebrate: Kris Bryant is Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year.
Annually among the top awards in minor league baseball (it’s always struck me as the most MVP-like of the awards), BA’s selection of Bryant is yet another validation not only of his crazy 2014 season, but also his crazy awesome status as a top prospect. The last eight BA Minor League Players of the Year: Byron Buxton, Wil Myers, Mike Trout, Jeremy Hellickson, Jason Heyward, Matt Wieters, Jay Bruce, and Alex Gordon.
Know the last time the Cubs had a BA Minor League Player of the Year? Yeah, that’d be never, dating all the way back to 1981.
BA’s write-up on Bryant is an absolute must-read, with input from Cubs executives and scouts, anecdotes from Bryant’s development, and plaudits for his ability. A highlight? BA suggests Bryant has frustrated minor league pitchers and managers – as well as, in part, the Cubs’ development staff – because he’s so damn good at making adjustments. That crushes opposing pitchers and teams, and also made it very hard for the Cubs to provide Bryant with an adequate challenge. That’s not the kind of “frustration” that actually gives an organization qualms, but it does speak to how advanced Bryant is as a minor league hitter. Now we’ll just have to see if he can adjust to the big leagues, and to the way big league pitchers will adjust to his adjustments.
I wouldn’t say it’s easy to forget that Bryant is coming next year, but we frequently focus our collective excitement on the guys we’re seeing now at the big league level, and on the projected moves we see the Cubs making in the offseason.
But Bryant is as good as any player the Cubs could develop or add to the roster next year. That doesn’t mean he’s a lock to dominate or even succeed, but it does mean that even more excitement is on the way.